Marla Runyan at Vision Loss Resources, Part 2 of 2


I know there are many people here today who are living with vision loss. It’s why we’re all here. I tried to think to myself: what do I think are the top three things that are the most important to live independently, and have quality of life, as a person who is visually impaired, or blind, or deaf-blind? What are my top three? Us athletes, we like our top three lists. So here’s my top three list to live successfully with vision impairment. Number one: It’s your own outlook. It’s your own perception of your vision impairment. As a nine-year-old kid, ten-year-old kid, I was like, “Hey, no big deal mom! I got it! I can do it!” It was like, you know, I learned, it was a big deal. But that was my attitude: “I can do this. “I’ve gotta work harder, I’ve gotta use some tools. Okay. Got it.” But man, my attitude was, “I’m gonna find a way. I’m gonna figure this out.” If your attitude is: “I can’t do that. I can’t see! I can’t do that. I can’t see!” Guess what, and everyone already knows the answer: you won’t do it! You’ve already determined, it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy: If you believe it’s not possible, then it clearly is not possible. So it has to start with the person who has the vision loss and how they perceive their own vision loss and the task in front of them. “Yes, I’m gonna learn how to use the bus. I’m gonna learn how to go grocery shopping. I’m gonna learn how to pay my bills. I can do this. I have to do it differently than I did before but I can do this.” So it starts with your outlook. Number two on my top three list: Tools. The right tools. I can’t even tell you how invaluable technology is in my life. My iPhone. Love my iPhone. iPhone rocks. Just clearing the air right now. If you don’t have an iPhone, go get an iPhone. Android, don’t bother. Just get an iPhone, okay? You’ve got a screen reader built into your iPhone. It will talk to you. You’ve got Siri, the personal assistant. “Hey Siri, play me my music while I’m running!” I have students at Perkins, totally blind students, with iPhones. Yes! Let’s get our Braille display hooked up. Rockin’ it with your iPhone. Love it. iPad, iPhone, Mac. I used to be a PC user with ZoomText, switched to Mac, love Mac, all Mac. So, love it. Would not have a Master’s degree without my Mac, okay. So, it is access. If you put anything on a piece of paper, I cannot see it. I can get my 10-power magnifier, and I could read a word or two, and I could stumble through this or that. It is not efficient – that’s not reading. I can’t read a novel or a book that way. I stopped reading at some point, until I got my iPad, and I got Read2Go, and now I read! It reads to me! But I can see the words go in front of me. I can get both: the auditory and the visual. So the technology, the tools – and it’s not just one, it’s everything. It’s my CC TV I can’t live without. My iPhone, my 10-power magnifier, my Clear Image glasses, I have a whole kit that I haul around with me. That’s my independence. That’s my access. Because there’s a big difference between “I can’t do that” and “I can’t access that.” Very different. I can’t read a 12-point — I can’t read a newspaper. But I can access a newspaper. So these tools are essential and they have given me my independence. I do online grocery shopping; how freaking awesome is that? [audience laughs] Like, yeah, seven-dollar delivery fee? Okay, you’re gonna go to the store, buy my groceries for me, and drive them to my house for seven bucks? Yes! [crowd laughs] Yeah, I’ll take that! Sure! Don’t care! Ten? You wanna charge me a ten-dollar delivery fee? No problem. Grocery shopping. Many people know what this is like: As you have low vision, or you are visually impaired, you go into a grocery store, you walk into a blur. A blur of color. “What’s down this aisle?” I have no idea. “What aisle number is that?” Don’t have a clue. “Where’s the bread?” No clue where is the bread. It could be on that– it’s either on either end. For me, going to a grocery store is like a workout. Because I gotta run or walk everywhere to figure out where everything is! And if you’re visually impaired, you memorize. You’ve looked a lot more sighted than you are because you can memorize where things are, and you can trick people. And then you get really good at tricking people. And you can march right into that grocery store and go right to that bread aisle and you can pull that bread out of the same place every time you look like you actually saw it. “I didn’t see at thing, I just know where it is!” So it’s an unbelievable compensation skill, that memory, that memorization. So, tools. I’m getting off track. I’m so adamant about having the right tools in your life to be as independent as you can be. And finally, number three, which is really why we’re here. It’s community. You can’t do this alone. As independent as you can be with tools, you can’t live indep — you can’t be totally alone, you need the support of your community, to either teach you a way to learn how to do something in a different way; to show you, to connect with other people who are going through what you’re going through, it’s community. So, number three on my all time need list for successful and independent life is community. And that’s where low-vision resources comes in. It’s not enough to say to somebody who just found out they lost all their visual acuity, most of their visual acuity, they’re at 2100, 2200, they can’t read, they can’t drive, and they’re afraid to leave their house. It’s not enough to say on the phone: “You can do it!” Not gonna work. You have to have the people in the community to come to that person’s house and bang on the door and barge in and say: “You’re gonna do this, and I’m gonna show you how.” “We’re gonna get online, I’m gonna get you a Mac and an iPhone and we’re gonna go online and do grocery shopping.” Alright. But you need that. You need the hands-on, up in your face, totally straightforward with you, “This is how you can do this.” And that’s what I believe has kept you in business for 100 years. If I’m not mistaken, right? Okay. [applause] On a final note, I’ve had thirty-five years to adapt to being visually impaired. And I’m still adapting. It doesn’t stop. I grew up in Southern California, moved to Oregon, lived there for 17 years, and had to learn different environments, start all over again. Now I’m in Massachusetts, and I’m discovering snow, ha-ha. And I’m like, okay, well- As anyone with a visual impairment knows, as soon as you change your environment, you have to start all over again. “Well, how do I go there? How do I get from here to there? Where’s that store? How do I do this?” And then I’ve learned: I’m walking to work and it’s snow everywhere, which is beautiful, although, you might have difference of opinion on that, especially today! But anyway, I’m walking to work, a lot of white — white, white, white, white! — and then I open the door to a building and I walk in and it’s like, the lights went off. Because with my vision, I don’t adapt to that change. Whoa. I totally didn’t have that in Oregon or even in California. So I’ve had 35 years to try to figure this out. That’s a huge head-start on someone who is maybe 55, 60, 65 years old, and has just found out they have macular degeneration, or cataracts, or glaucoma. And now, at 55, 60 years old, they have to figure it out. And I’ve had 35 years to figure it out! And I still don’t have it figured out! So thank goodness for someone like low vision resources, because you’re gonna help them figure it out. They don’t have 35 years, right. The other thing they don’t have, and as you know about my story: they don’t have a parent as an advocate. I had this incredible support in my home. I no doubt would not be standing here without my parents. I had an incredible mom who was my advocate for my lifetime, for her lifetime. And our seniors today who are experiencing vision loss don’t have that advocate. But they have you. Thank you very much. And thank you for making your way here on a very treacherous morning. And I’m very excited I was able to speak with you today. Thank you for all the work that you do. Thank you. [applause]

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